With super advanced equipment, tow-in access, and internet swell tracking, a growing number of surfers are getting rides on incredibly powerful waves.
What makes a wave dangerous? Is sheer size an accurate indicator for how hazardous a surf spot is? Read on for our roundup of the top ten most dangerous waves in the world.
1. Cyclops (remote south coast Western Australia)
This ultra square-shaped, below sea level, one-eyed monster tops the list for good reasons. It’s impossible to paddle into on a surfboard and almost unrideable towing behind a jet ski.
If you blow a wave here you’ll be washed straight onto the dry rocks, which is a bummer because the nearest medical help is hours away.
2. Teahupoo (Tahiti)
The scary thing about Teahupoo (pronounced Cho-poo) is that as the swell gets beyond 10 feet the wave doesn’t so much get taller, it just gets more enormous, often looking like the entire ocean is peeling over with the lip.
Falling off here is almost a guarantee of hitting the razor sharp coral reef below, which wouldn’t be so bad if the locals didn’t insist on using fresh Tahitian lime juice to sterilise the reef cuts. Ouch.
3. Shipsterns (Tasmania, Australia)
Set along a remote length of pristine Tasmanian coastline, you could almost call this area picturesque if the wave itself wasn’t so ugly.
Raw Antarctic swells come out of deep ocean and jack up into a roaring righthander in front of the cliff which gives the spot its name. The uneven reef causes weird steps and bubbles in the wave, which are always an unpleasant surprise when you’re still trying to navigate the drop down the face.
4. Dungeons (Cape Town, South Africa)
It’s not that shallow and it doesn’t break in front of any rocks, but it is located off the tip of South Africa in the freezing Southern Ocean in shark-infested waters. Dungeons regularly holds waves up to 70 feet, which is why organisers have chosen to put on the annual Big Wave Africa contest here since 1999.
5. Pipeline (Oahu, Hawaii)
The shallow lava reef that shapes Pipe’s famous round tube is actually full of trenches and bumps — meaning a nasty old time for anyone falling out of the lip from 12 feet above. Which happens with surprisingly regularity, even to the experienced locals.
Perhaps almost as dangerous are the insane crowds that flock to Pipe any time it gets good, with fearless Hawaiians competing with pros, wannabes, and tourists for the set waves.
6. Desert Point (Lombok, Indonesia)
This beautiful lefthander peels over very shallow coral somewhere off the dusty island of Lombok. The wave is less dangerous than the hazards of extreme boredom during flat spells (there’s nothing on land but a few run-down losemans), overcrowding, contracting malaria, and the fact that medical access is hours away.
7. The Cave (Ericeira, Portugal)
With all the ingredients that a dangerous wave should have, including a shallow reef, urchins, and hot-tempered locals, it’s not surprising The Cave has been described as Europe’s heaviest wave. It was once the preserve of Portugal’s bodyboarding set, but pros like Tiago Pires have been taking it on in recent years — and surviving.
8. Lunada Bay (California, USA)
Perhaps one of the best righthanders in California, Lunada is a great performance wave at six feet but it also handles swell right up to 20 feet. It’s not an overly dangerous wave in itself, but the locals are another matter.
9. El Gringo (Arica, Chile)
Chile has a bunch of waves equally as heavy and urchin-infested as this one, but El Gringo is included in this list because of the damage it did to the pro surfers who surfed it in 2007′s WCT event. There were numerous broken boards, embedded urchin spines, and slashed heads. And they surf for a living. Imagine what it’d do to you?
10. Tarqua (Lagos, Nigeria)
The good news is that this beach break located at the entrance to the Lagoon of Iddo in Lagos is often a fun, wedging peak. The bad news is the 60 million litres of raw sewage and tonnes of industrial waste produced by the 8 million inhabitants of Lagos every year that flows out into the ocean. Other hazards include floating carcasses, rubbish, and the occasional mugging on the beach.
By Rhys Stacker, MatadorNetwork